Assessment: Spring 2016: Earth Day, Birthday(s), and Passover

As I said in Friday’s mini-post, this weekend I got to celebrate Earth Day, Passover, my wife’s birthday, and CCF’s 4 year anniversary – what a culmination of great events! Every year, I take this time to reflect on the last three months, follow up on my winter assessment (December 29, 2015), and contemplate the future.

Since the last assessment, I have focused on three issues:

  1. I looked at the continued coverage of the December 2015 COP21 meeting in Paris that resulted in a global agreement on mitigating climate change
  2. My January 2016 visit to Cuba sparked a series of 6 blogs about Cuba and the US embargo
  3. The beginning of the 2016 presidential campaigns led me to focus on the fact that close to half of the eligible voters in the US – a number that amounts to close to 100 million people – consistently don’t vote

My next assessment will be in September – after both parties hold their conventions and decide upon their platforms. I will also have just returned from a month-long trip to Europe, which is certain to flavor my outlook. Meanwhile, it seems to me that it’s about time to take a break from the election until August or September, when the list of candidates has narrowed.

I think it will be productive to focus on the interplay between science and politics. There were three recent articles in the New York Times that peaked my interest. One is by Eduardo Porter, who claims that opposition to climate change mitigation is not limited to conservatives. The second one by David Brooks, quotes Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s warnings about the danger of limiting explanations of complex issues to a single story or point of view. Finally, I was fascinated by Frank Bruni’s latest piece, where he shares his disgust at the way that we are trying to elect a president.

I am also taking advantage of my school’s week-long spring break, reading Sarah Bakewell’s book, At the Existentialist Café. I’m hoping to gain a more abstract perspective about life around me.

I’d like to share my thoughts as to how we should prepare for the future of our changing world that is so dominated by human beings. As I’ve said, we are currently in the midst of an era called the Anthropocene:

The Anthropocene is a proposed epoch that begins when human activities started to have a significant global impact on Earth’s geology and ecosystems. Neither the International Commission on Stratigraphy nor the International Union of Geological Sciences has yet officially approved the term as a recognized subdivision of geological time.

As I wrote before (February 3, 2015):

We are now living in the Anthropocene (May 14, 2013 blog) period. “Officially” we are not there yet, but with 7 billion people (as of October 2012) and growing, the change in designation becomes inevitable and humans will soon officially become the dominant part of the “natural environment.”

Bernie Sanders is calling us to join his “ultimate” revolution, but his version is limited to destroying our current governance system, and does not include a vision of building a new system to reflect our changing world. Naturally, as we are still in the primaries of the election cycle, the changes that he is advocating are mostly local to the US. He is the first one to admit that he doesn’t know too much about the world around us. His election would, however, be a better scenario than a presidency of Donald Trump, the leading candidate on the Republican side, who advocates building a tall wall on our southern border (demanding that Mexico foot the bill) that will isolate us from the rest of the world.

The Anthropocene is an epoch that describes the world; it is not limited to the United States. Nor is it just about human society; it is a term that integrates the physical environment with the human environment. Any governance system of our society necessarily includes our physical environment. To make significant changes to benefit our world, scientists will have to get involved in politics and politicians will have to get involved in science. As I have mentioned, “bilingualism” in talking about social studies and the sciences should be emphasized within the educational system. We can’t leave it to Ted Cruz or Sarah Palin to define what scientists should be. Similarly, we shouldn’t accept Marco Rubio’s excuse of not being a scientist to let him off the hook for dealing with climate change.

In the next few blogs I will try to launch a campaign of my own to politicize the Anthropocene. I want to increase proliferation of this kind of bilingualism between the sciences and social sciences and expand the opportunity pool for those that make the effort to learn the two languages. As a matter of fact, I already have one candidate for such jobs. She is graduating from our Honors College with a double major in Chemistry and Political Science. She wants to dedicate her life to making the world a better place, while also making enough money to support herself. Naturally, she is a bit confused about how to achieve all of this, but such things come with age.

I will be able to watch her efforts as I work to put the political Anthropocene into context within the mainstream consciousness.

Assessment: Since the end of December, on Twitter, I’m up to 348 followers. I also had 14 mentions, 62 retweets and over 43K organic tweet impressions. On Facebook, in the same time period, my page got an additional 96 “likes” and 12K impressions from almost 9K users. On my blog itself, I’m happy to report that I’ve had had 1,362 visits from 881 unique computers. To those of you reading, I thank you and (as always) welcome your comments. Please don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, “like” me on Facebook, and tell your friends to do the same. Not only do I post my newest blogs, I also share interesting articles and stories.

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About climatechangefork

Micha Tomkiewicz, Ph.D., is a professor of physics in the Department of Physics, Brooklyn College, the City University of New York. He is also a professor of physics and chemistry in the School for Graduate Studies of the City University of New York. In addition, he is the founding-director of the Environmental Studies Program at Brooklyn College as well as director of the Electrochemistry Institute at that same institution.
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